Apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) as a surrogate for neutron probe counts to measure soil moisture content in heavy clay soils (Vertosols)

John N. Stanley, David W. Lamb, Gregory Falzon, Derek A. Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Site-specific measurements of the apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) of soil using the EM38 were correlated with near-simultaneous neutron probe readings over periods of moisture extraction by an irrigated cotton crop. Thirty sites were monitored from three ECa zones within a 96-ha field of grey Vertosol soil 30km west of Moree, New South Wales, Australia. This study differs from previous approaches by reporting the effect on ECa of a wetting front (irrigation) reaching a single ECa measurement point in a field and by using polyethylene neutron probe access tubes so that the EM38 could be operated directly over the same site measured by a neutron probe. We report strong correlations (r≤0.94) between neutron probe counts (CRR) averaged to a depth of 40 or 60cm and ECa from an EM38 held in the vertical mode 20cm above the soil surface. All combinations of EM sensor height (0-1.2m) to neutron probe measurement depth (0.2-1.4m) returned correlations >0.85. The relationship between CCR and ECa was linear for the purposes of estimating water content over a range of background ECa levels. More critical modelling suggested a slight curve (logarithmic model) fitted best. The range of surface-surveyed ECa from the start of irrigation (refill point) to fully irrigated (full point) was ∼27mSm-1 for this Vertosol, where surface ECa readings typically ranged from 50 to 200mSm-1. We suggest that the calibration of ECa to CRR might be effected by a two-point measurement of the soil, namely at both upper (field capacity) and lower (wilting point) ECa values, and a site-specific calibration template generated by extending these point measures to whole-field surveys.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)373-378
Number of pages6
JournalSoil Research
Volume52
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Electromagnetic induction survey
  • Precision agriculture
  • Spatial water use
  • ΔECa

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